What is it?
The unofficial summer capital of Saudi Arabia, Taif, is a city located in the western part of the country. It gets this title due to the pleasant climate, particularly in the summer when the rest of the region can be unbearable, this city is cool and serene. The reason for this is that it is almost at a 2000 metre elevation. The roads leading to the city will have you amazed and enthralled at the same time. The long and winding roads up to this mountainous city is an experience in and of itself. Other than the climate, Taif is known for many other things such as its beautiful mountains, fresh produce, pomegranate, figs and honey, but quite probably its prized possession is its rose. Its official name is Rosa damascena trigintipetala – but it is better known as wardh taifi (Taif Rose). The Taif rose is unique to this city and it cannot be grown or found anywhere else. Quite possibly, one of the most expensive yet relatively unknown perfume ingredients in the world. It is highly regarded in the world of perfumery, beloved for its deep fragrance – which is even more intense than the better-known Damask rose to which it’s related.
Taif roses have 30 petals and the reason they flourish here may be due to the city being 2000 metres above sea level, and the cooler temperature. As with all roses, Taif roses are harvested early, farmers get up before sunrise to pick roses by flashlight, since too much sun exposure will weaken the fragrance of the rose petals. The resultant perfume is powerful and expensive – and it is no surprise: it takes around 40,000 rose flowers to produce one 10g bottle of rose oil.
Where does it come from?
It remains a mystery of nature how the 30-petal rose arrived in Taif. With similarities to the famous Bulgarian Kazanlik rose, some claim that sometime after the mid-14th century, they were brought to Taif from the Balkans and Turkey by traders and entrepreneurs who wanted to grow roses close to Makkah. While others claim that it came from the Persian rose plantations around Shiraz and Kashan, or even India.
The seeds were the same as those in Turkey, Bulgaria, Iran and India — but the unique climate created by Taif’s altitude led to especially fragrant petals. This fragrance scents the morning air in the mountains of Taif during the spring. Taif roses must be harvested early in the morning, before the heat of the day destroys the precious essential oils.
Whether it is from the Balkans or from India, one thing is certain, though. Today the world’s most precious rose oil descends from the mountain gardens of Western Saudi Arabia, Taif. It should not come as a surprise then, that the Taif rose has long produced one of the world’s most precious and sought-after rose oils.
Why is it so special?
Every spring, in the month of April, the city of Taif becomes breath-taking and heavenly pink. Because they are grown in such a high altitude, these delicate, intensely perfumed 30-petal wonders are a little fresher in character than traditional Damask roses. This natural wonder only lasts for a month. As mentioned before, these are then picked by farmers before sunrise to prevent the petals being hit by the sun and as a result diminishing the fragrance. A very delicate procedure from start to finish.
It is considered from the greatest of gifts one can give due to its exceptional rarity. As well as the timing and location of the roses, the fact that it takes anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 hand-picked roses to create a small vial of oil makes it such a highly prized oil. Taif rose epitomises nobility in the Middle East due to its deeply floral, honeyed notes. King Khalid bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia was known to be a massive admirer. The Taif rose oil is sold – usually in the form of a “tolah” – a small glass vial of 11.7 grams. The price of a tolah varies from season to season and quality, and then according to age, but you will frequently find tolahs of Taif oil sold for more than £800 in some perfume houses in Dubai.
Keep an eye out for future exciting projects we have planned that include this sought-after oil.